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Posts tagged: scam

Aggressive callers target Idahoans in ‘IRS agent’ scam

Idahoans increasingly are being targeted by a scam in which aggressive callers claim to be IRS agents and threaten arrest, liens, and even “bodily harm” if the victims don’t pay up immediately, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden reported today. “We’ve seen steady reporting of the IRS scam in the last few months,” Wasden said, as he released the annual report of his Consumer Protection Division – which received more than 800 complaints over the past year and recovered $1.9 million in restitution for wronged consumers. “The best response is to simply hang up on these crooks.”

Jennifer Pedregon of Boise, shown here, said she heard her parents’ answering machine receive a call from what sounded like a real IRS agent – including badge number and phone number to call back – saying her dad owed taxes and needed to get back to the “agent,” “otherwise further legal action would be taken within eight to 10 days.” She was concerned, but then her cell phone rang, and she received an identical call, this time threatening her rather than her father. “I realized that that was probably not a legitimate IRS agent,” Pedregon said.

Deana DuVall of Meridian got a message on her answering machine from a heavily accented caller claiming to be an IRS agent and demanding a call back on her husband’s case. When she returned the call, the man demanded her phone number; she declined. “He started yelling at me,” she said. “He said, “We will have your husband arrested in 45 minutes – we’re coming.” The man called back later that afternoon, DuVall said. “We knew it had to be fraud. But it was scary, because they knew personal things about my husband and me – we don’t know how.” Both women filed complaints with the Attorney General’s office.  

Some of the scammers have managed to mask their phone numbers so it looks like the calls come from toll-free IRS numbers; some have correctly given the last four digits of the intended victim’s Social Security number. Brett DeLange, head of the office’s Consumer Protection Division, said, “The IRS is not going to call you and say you owe money. … That’s just not how they do business. You’re going to get a notice in the mail.” He said, “The most important message is hang up, and the sooner the better – don’t talk to these people. They’re criminals.”

Idaho has been receiving steady reports of the scam statewide in recent months, though it’s been around for several years, DeLange said. It’s among an array of consumer-protection issues the office addresses. Among the highlights of the past year for the office was the successful federal antitrust lawsuit rejecting the purchase of Saltzer Medical Group by St. Luke’s Health System; that ruling is now on appeal. The division also has recovered millions for Idahoans in cases involving everything from e-books to pharmaceutical pricing to discount clubs.

Wasden said the nearly $2 million in recoveries for Idaho consumers amounts to $2.72 for each taxpayer dollar appropriated for consumer operations in 2014. The full Consumer Protection Division annual report, released today, is online here.

Attorney General warns of donation scam targeting Idaho non-profits

Idaho non-profits are being targeted in an overpayment scam, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden warns. Typically, the scammer makes a very large donation to the non-profit online, like $5,000, then contacts the organization to say the large donation was a mistake - intended, for example, to have been $500 - and asks for a refund of the difference. Non-profits taken in by the scam end up without either the “refund” or the original donation. “My office has warned individual Idahoans for a number of years to be wary of offers to overpay for advertised goods or services,” Wasden said. “More recently, we have received reports of a variation on that theme targeting non-profits that receive donations online.” Wasden today issued a “consumer alert” warning Idaho non-profits about the scam; click below for his full announcement.

ISU students targets of tax prep scam

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: POCATELLO, Idaho (AP) ― A 38-year-old Dallas man has pleaded guilty to federal charges that he conspired to falsify income tax returns for Idaho State University students. The U.S. Attorney's Office says Moses Mukuka pleaded guilty Wednesday in Pocatello to conspiracy to file false claims for a refund and making a false claim against the United States. Sentencing is set for Feb. 13. Prosecutors alleged Mukuka entered into an agreement with another person to place flyers around the ISU campus advertising himself as an accounting student who would do income tax returns for $10. Mukuka sent the students' paperwork to another individual who submitted returns to the IRS with false information designed to increase the refund. Mukuka distributed a small portion of the refund to the taxpayers and wouldn't provide them with copies of their returns.

Behind-the-times scammers pitch Nigerian letters thru faxes to Idaho

Some scammers who apparently are a bit behind the times are lighting up fax lines in southern Idaho - and elsewhere in the country - with a Nigerian letter scam pitch. “We just have been inundated since 3 p.m.,” said Robb Hicken of the Better Business Bureau in Boise. “Our phone lines are just going off the hook.”

Such scams promise riches if the recipient will just kindly help the desperate sender, usually identified as a relative of an official or member of a royal family, get a large sum of money out of his country to the U.S., for a handsome fee. In reality, victims get nothing except ripped off.

Hicken said such scams most recently have been going out by text; before that, they typically came in spam emails. Before that, faxes were more common, and before that, they arrived in the mail. “We just haven't seen fax scams forever,” he said. “Sounds like somebody bought a whole list of fax numbers.” Best advice for those who receive the pitch: Ignore it. And above all, don't send money or respond with personal information.

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About this blog

Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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